soaked shoes and cancelled plans

Rain blue flowers

Some see rain and they think about how the rain will soak their shoes

and hair

and clothes

and books

Some see rain and they think about how they wish they were still in bed

with a good book

with a cup of coffee

with a day away from school

Some see rain and they think about the drive to work

the walk to class

the time outdoors

the cancelled plans

Some see rain and they hate it

they despise it

they wish for it to cease

But what happens

when a forest fire

is raging and soaring and singing and thriving

And the sky is painted orange, and the ground is painted black

Could you only imagine

what would happen

if we were out there

and faintly in the distance

slowly approaching

we saw the same rain

that we had grown to dislike?

Perhaps we could see the importance,

finally,

of perspective.

illusions

I am thankful that God gave me the ability to experience beauty.
What is beauty? Where is the idea of beauty derived from? What molds our minds to think something is classified as beautiful? I am not talking about exterior, superficial beauty. I am talking about things that are truly beautiful. Truly extravagant and truly awing. This type of beauty leaves me humbled and thankful. It makes me feel small but important. It leaves me confirmed in my faith and sincerely amazed. Have you ever seen an illusionist or magician perform and leave thinking, wow that was incredible. How did that happen? What was the trick or the hidden performance that caused the illusion?
I feel this way about things that are beautiful.
The biological sciences leave me almost daily in a state of appreciation and utter awe. Every day, every second, every single millisecond, our bodies are performing some incredibly complex and intricate processes. The human body blows my mind. My biology professor, Dr. Laura Stephan, was lecturing this morning about a protein found in the mitochondrial matrix (remember from middle school, the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell!) that is so fundamental to our beings that it is a testament to the enormity and intricacy of our God. This protein, ATP synthase, is the sole proprietor for the functional energy created by our cells. This may sound like mumbo jumbo but let me elucidate – this single, microscopic molecule enables our cells to produce energy, which enables our cells to do amazing things like fight disease and fix problems in the body. I am able to write this post and think these thoughts because of a tiny, seemingly insignificant protein. I am able to laugh and enjoy apple cider and watch endless amounts of Netflix because these minuscule mechanisms within my body are functioning – and not just functioning but functioning in a way that is conducive to living and thriving. I’m sorry, maybe it’s just me, but that is beautiful. The way everything fits together so well, the way everything works at the right time and halts at the right time, the way the body has all these crazy complexities that allow me to live and breathe is absolutely awesome, in the true meaning of the word. Beauty to me is seeing how God enables our lives. He put all of those proteins in the perfect places. When I was being created in my mother’s womb, all of my cells came together in a fashion that enabled me. So much is going on in our bodies at a given time that it is almost incomprehensible. I think God works this way. He silently creates these beautiful pieces of our lives and when we are exposed to them, it takes our breath away and leaves us in awe and wonder. God has shown me the beauty that He is capable of uncovering. It makes me hopeful and excited to know that my God can make things so indefinitely beautiful.
Last night I attended a symphony at the University. I love classical music, but this was my first attendance at a true symphony with an orchestra. It was incredible. Hearing sounds created by instruments that came together in a way that seemingly flowed into a single piece caused my thoughts to navigate towards what was actually going on. Individuals on the stage were performing with their instrument, those sounds were combining with other sounds; the sounds danced around each other, and then that music traveled to my ears and I was enabled to experience the combination of it all. During the symphony I just thought to myself Thank you God for allowing these things to enrich my mind and fill my ears. This is just another form of the beauty you allow me to see. Whenever you let God take you to something beautiful, you know it. Last night was one of those moments.
Beauty is all around us. Maybe you have difficulty seeing beauty; if that’s the case, I encourage you to look for the beauty. He has placed it all around us: in the leaves, in conversation, in our bodies, in the mountains, in His merciful grace, and most prominently in ourselves. God has given you a beauty so unique to you that no one else can replicate it. He has given us the ability to recognize this beauty in others and verbally acknowledge it (I think we should utilize this ability more often). God, thank you for the beauty you have shown me. Thank you for the incomprehensible, transcending, munificent, and amazing beauty you have allowed me to see. I pray that you guys see this same beauty around you and within yourself.
Like the magician, we see only what is exposed to us. But instead of living a life of wonder and incessant pondering of unanswered questions about how the magic tricks are working, God is transparent. He lets us know that He is the illusionist behind all things beautiful and all things wonderful.

handcrafted.

This weekend is recruitment weekend at Belmont University. This has been a decision I have been poring over for a while now. Contrary to state schools or larger schools, Belmont’s Greek Life is very different. It is my personal values to stay true to myself and what I find fundamentally important. But the atmosphere and the demeanor of the women in these sororities is so authentic and so humble. I have had conversations about how God works in our lives in various ways, I have talked about my dreams and plans with women who have genuine interest, and I have felt so at ease and so welcomed by every Greek chapter. But this post isn’t about Greek Life at Belmont. It is about creating your own mold.

I am a biochemistry and molecular biology major here at Belmont. I adore science and learning about the amazing and beautiful world around us. You don’t fully understand how complex and intricate God is until you study our world at  molecular and microphysical levels. I adore these things. I get so, so excited about these things. So I worried maybe being in a sorority would be “unfit” for me. Maybe that defies the stereotypical science major and pre-med profile. Maybe that will distort the scientific image of myself that I have. Maybe others will think of me differently.

two things I was taught this past week in my classes:

  1. “I am not who I think I am. I am not who you think I am. I am who I think you think I am.”
  2. Profound and groundbreaking scientists usually have a very curvaceous and sometimes circuitous path.
The first one: read it again and think about it. We develop the images of ourselves based on the perceptions of others. We are who we think others perceive us to be. YOU CAN BE ANYTHING OR ANYONE YOU WANT TO BE!
The second one: everyone’s path to success and stairwell to their dreams is often littered with obstacles and differences. It is supposed to be that way! Your path to greatness is going to be haphazard. The best thing is you can face any obstacle, roadblock, or frightening mountain in your life with the presence of God by your side! He sees your talents, your beliefs and values, and your grandest desires. He wants you to be experienced. He wants you to gain wisdom. He might allow you to experience some set backs or conundrums, but He will be there holding you tightly if you allow Him to embrace you!
So I concluded my thoughts about this internal battle of “who I should be”, “who I am”, and “who I want to be” with this: I am creating my own, one-of-a-kind mold. I am becoming someone novel and unique. I am going to be who I chose to be, not based on my past experiences or future hopes. Today I choose to love me as I am, to love who I am going to become, and to welcome challenges that are going to shape me. I hope, and I pray, that you choose to defy the standards set for you and to create your own wonderful, special, and hand crafted mold.
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful. I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14

seasons of change

lkjkjk

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the term Eureka or the historical concepts behind it. This post was essentially an exact replication of the original Eureka! moment by Archimedes, the great physicist (not known as a physicist at the time of his existence). During Archimedes’ moment of realization, he was visiting a public bath, mulling over the problem he had been commanded to solve. Long story short, the King at the time was assuming his jeweler was replacing some of his authentic gold with a less valuable metal; thus, stealing from him and lessening the integrity and value of his crown. I just recently read this in a book of great physicists and happened to find it very fitting to this scenario. Anyways, the story continues and Archimedes solves the equation by lowering into the water and seeing it rise. The displaced water led him to the discovery of the measurement of irregular volumes (a graduated cylinder). He has a “Eureka!” moment and runs out of the public bath to the King with the solution and leaves his eternal mark on science.

Okay, my ironically fitting situation. I too am in the bath, except it’s 1:00 in the morning and I’m in the private environment of my own home. Like most of the times I spend showering and bathing, my mind evolves into this overly effective thinking machine. While just contemplating life and all of it’s various aspects, I am enlightened with a thought that needs to be written down. so. Like all writers, I don’t let the thought escape me and I write it down. I had full intentions of keeping this one to myself. It’s too deep. It’s too weird. It’s too “inspirational” or “wise”. It only makes sense in my mind. People will ridicule me. Then I realized I was falling victim to the very thing that had been placed on my mind. I needed to take my own advice and READ what I WROTE. So here you go. Just me, my late night, Eureka thoughts, and the large gulf of understanding and appreciation between me, the writer, and you, the reader.

disclaimer: It was 1 am when I wrote this. I am fully capable of practicing proper grammar and capitalization skills; however, I am choosing to let this post remain in all of its raw messiness.

1:00 am. Wednesday, December 5th. Silence, electronic illumination, and an oversized shirt. Hear, see, touch. Urgent typing. Sleepiness. Fuzzy socks but a very clear mind.

“your thoughts are like vibrant, beautiful leaves hanging from the tree of talent and creativity. the tree represents your mind. often times, your tree is full of vibrant, awaiting leaves, ready to fall to the ground and serve a purpose. when your thoughts are looking upwards, encouraging you and helping you – this is spring. spring is a blooming season. spring is bright and cheerful. during this time your thoughts are creating themselves and something in your mind is evoking curiosity. where did this thought stem from? your thoughts are at the beginning of the assembly line. they are being manufactured. assembled. piece by piece, thought by thought. essentially the leaves of your trees are becoming brighter and growing with life and energy. they have been initiated and fed with curiosity and urgency. when your thoughts are at their full potential, they are so on fire with life and ready to throw you into something so outrageously life changing, you have reached summer. your thoughts are fully developed and awaiting for you to use them. to change you, to help you grow as a person, to help you encourage someone else, to inspire you, to make your dreams come alive, or to change your circumstances. your thoughts may be as simple as the inspiration for a change of occupation or a small reminder to someone that “everything is going to be okay”, to something so complex and convuluted as the thoughts that led John Dalton to abolish the four elements theory that closed the gap between “what was” and “what is”. thoughts like these are those robust shades of greens that we adore during the summer time. the ones we obsess over and enjoy so much. during the summer season, your thoughts are energetic and ready to make their escape into the world. the time after this though – the time in which your thoughts hesitate from escaping your mind and materializing themselves, this is the extremely hot and dreary period between the beauty of a mild summer and the beginning of a breezy fall. your thoughts are trying to squeeze their life into you, trying to motivate you to deny the doubts that other people place in your mind and the thoughts that the demons inside of you create. this is the scariest and most important time for your thoughts. will you let them out or hold them? will you kill their oh so genuine beauty? from here, your thoughts do one of two things.

autumn comes.

your thoughts become the breathtaking, anticipated leaves that create a world of yellows and reds and oranges. the leaves featured in photography sessions and Instagram photos. the thoughts that create life and inspire dreams. the thoughts that have escaped in full reality and have developed into an awe inspiring life. the thoughts that shattered doubt and choked demons. the thoughts that make people think “why didn’t I do that?” or “why didn’t I think of that?”.  the people possessing these interrogative thoughts are the leaves that are dry, brown, and dead. the thoughts that had full potential of being inspiring but were crushed by fear of failure and disappointment. these crunchy, ominous leaves are the thoughts that could have created something so beautiful. something so majestic and wonderful but were suffocated by the the thought of stupidity, low self worth, and insecurity. while others frolic in the leaves of those who expressed their minds, these individuals mourn over the death of their talented thoughts.

don’t be the one attending the funeral of your rare and precious ideas.

then winter comes. a time of dormancy. a time where creativity stirs and the playing field equals out. all the trees are bare. those who expressed their thoughts are equal to those who kept theirs confined. a time of tranquility, but with a sense of urgency. a time of anticipation for what’s ahead.

spring comes again.

and there are now three categories. those who relish, anticipate, and remember their cheerful spring leaves, vibrant summer leaves, and amazing fall leaves. there are also those who decide to navigate from their previous course and nurture their bright ideas and crumbling self worth to express their ideas and thoughts this time. and the third category, those who didn’t learn the first time. those who are still under the heavy chains of the world and those surrounding them. those who will repeat a vicious cycle of hesitation, disappointment, and failure.

your mind is a tree full of leaves with potential. do you want to set them free and let others indulge in their beauty and rarity? or keep them locked inside of you and prevent the world from admiring and benefiting from your creativity, inspiration, encouragement, or ideas.

everyday is a new year. everyday you get to experience each season. everyday you have to a choice to stand out or step back. I strongly encourage you to write down your thoughts and express them to others. I think very highly of the things being created inside your mind, and I know others would too.”

Well, This Is Different…

This is unlike anything I have ever posted; for that reason, I am choosing to post it! I think it is important to reveal my dynamic side as well as my not-so-dynamic side (yes, I do thoroughly enjoy painting my nails and being fashionable, but even more so I enjoy reading and writing about complex ideas such as this). This is an essay I recently wrote for my Intro to Sociology class for college. I found this topic to be intriguing, and I enjoyed researching and studying the concepts throughout the past two weeks. I have to view these ideas (and all the other ideas studied in this class) through a sociological perspective. Meaning I try to leave out personal bias, opinion, and thought. Of course, that isn’t always as easy as it seems! I must tell you that these concepts are based on factual evidence provided by professors, biologists, anthropologists, geneticists, and professionals in their field of study. I hope you take the time to read (it is quite lengthy, my apologies!) and maybe it will inspire you as it has me to find faith in humanity again.

Let me warn you: this is an educational blog post. It may not be as popular as my others but I still wanted to share it with you guys!

This is written as informal discussion post so all in-text citations have been excluded and proper format isn’t required.

“Race is a socially constructed category composed of people who share biologically transmitted traits that members of a society consider important . In America, for several years we have used physical differences to classify people into four or five groups we call races. Races are categories that are assumed to be unchanging. Meaning, once you are in a race it is often very difficult to escape the racial group and all of its stereotypes and prejudices that come along with it. Race assumes that genetics sets us apart; however, these things aren’t rooted in biology, but instead ascribed to biology according to biological anthropologist, Alan Goodman. Americans have had many assumptions about different races and what characteristics pertain to certain races. For example, blacks are better athletes, Asians are more intelligent, whites are wealthier, and Hispanics are hard workers. These assumptions are often generalizations we call stereotypes. Among these assumptions are also the beliefs that interracial marriage lessens the integrity of a society, racial inequality is essential to a functioning society, certain diseases cause racial groups to die earlier, and races have genetically determined traits for sexual appetites and reproductive capacities. According to pbs.org, race is a modern idea. In fact, ancient societies did not divide based on physical differences as we do today, but instead on religion, class, status, and language. We as a society have developed these groups that often lead to lost job, business, and marriage opportunities. So, how do we as a society “unmake” what we have “made”? Race, though it seems simple and fixed, is often complex and changing. First, we must define what our perceptions are about race. Then, determine the facts of race; and lastly, more forward towards a goal that benefits society, and every race in it, as a whole.
Race is assumed by most (including myself prior to my research on these topics) to be a genetically inherited trait. I think most people do not think any differently of this concept due in part to the fact that they don’t actually think about this concept. Race is a socially accepted idea in America. Because we accept this as Americans, we also accept all of the issues that come with it. It is important to realize that yes race is real, but not in the terms that most people think it is. What I mean is that no, race is not real in the theory that one inherits it genetically from the traits passed down from his or her mother and father. One does not inherit race the same way he or she inherits eye color, hair color, hair texture, skin color, body shape, musical, athletic, and intellectual ability, personality tendencies, and other genetically determined traits. However, one does get ascribed a race based on these inherited qualities. For example, an African American male does not inherit a gene that labels him “African American”. He does, however, inherit a gene (or multiple genes) that control his skin color. Furthermore, based off the premise held by the color of his skin, that we as Americans have institutionalized, he is classified as African American. Although this concept is clear cut and comprehensible, the complexity of disapproving race as a biological concept would be a major paradigm shift in society. For it to be accepted that race is indeed something we have “made up” would be as to the ancient philosophers accepting that the world is indeed not flat: a concept not easily accepted. I noted during the Race: The Power of Illusion video that race has no definite physical markers. Some determine race based on skin color and some determine it by hair texture. This was proven to me to be true in the PBS exercise. I was asked to categorize people into racial groups based solely on physical appearance. There was a particular female who had white skin with unruly, curly hair who I classified into the African American category; my answer was accurate, and unfortunately I had answered it based solely on the texture of her hair. Just as the physical markers for race are uncertain, so are the actual races. For example, a black person in America may not be classified as black in Brazil or South Africa. As Ms. Warner stated in her synopsis of race, these physical differences are no more significant than two people who classify themselves as white but have different eye color, hair color, nose shape, and body shape. These are insignificant differences that hold great significant importance in our society’s eyes.
When studying this topic, a common argument is that African Americans are genetically favored towards having superior athletic ability. In Race: The Power of Illusion, a comment was made by a white man that blacks have superior athletic ability because they were closer to the primitive. Contrarily, a comment was made by a black man that whites often use this argument as a disposition for their tendency to have inferior athletic skills. Of course, both of these are opinions have no evidential support. In biological terms, the alleles for skin color and hair texture are inherited independently of one another; meaning that a black person may have silky, straight hair and a white person may have coarse, curly hair (Race: The Power of Illusion). In contrast to these seemingly “simple” genetic situations, the genes for musical talent, athletic ability, and intellectual ability are very complex, but they are also inherited independently of skin color. This is to verify that a white person is capable of having just as much athletic ability as a black person and a black person is capable of having just as much intellectual ability as a white person.
Statistics show that blacks make up only 12% of the total population but 75% of professional football players. A black woman stated that African Americans across the globe are often better at sports because they run or perform physical activity on a daily basis for survival. For example, Kenyans often have to travel long distances to retrieve food and water; thus, Kenyans are typically better performers at long distance races. These aren’t inherited behaviors though. They are learned behaviors. There are no doubt physical differences do encourage athletic performance in blacks, but whites with the same physical differences are just as capable of performing on the same level. One man indicated that it all comes down to drive and how bad you want it.
In Race: The Power of Illusion, I was very shocked to hear about the findings of the experiment executed by the teenagers. In short, the teenagers were asked to identify who they thought they would be most closely identical to genetically. As assumed, the whites chose whites, the blacks chose blacks, and the Asians chose Asians. They performed an experiment where they tested the mitochondrial DNA from each individual. Mitochondrial DNA doesn’t code for physical differences, so traits such as skin color and hair texture were excluded. After the experiment was concluded and the findings were displayed, I was shocked. From the beginning, the students thought they would be most similar to the ones they shared national origin with. Astonishingly though, the most differences between any two individuals, regardless of race, was 12 base pairs. One male was a 100% genetic match to individuals from Iceland, the Balkan Peninsula, and Africa; three completely different races. This was revolutionary to me because it showed that there are very few differences between any two individuals within a society, despite skin color. It proved that race is in reality just a socially constructed concept. (All of these concepts were applied from Race: The Power of Illusion).
There is a lot of evidence in racial stereotypes that cannot be denied. Animals are often instinctively forced to make judgments based on physical differences to survive. Just like animals, it is often innate for humans to make judgments. “We automatically, immediately, and unconsciously judge people based on race and sex,” says psychologist John Dovidio. In the exercises performed by the children asked to choose who they perceived as nice, mean, weird, etc., they displayed great stereotypes. These are just children who already have perceptions about race. Somewhere they have been exposed to negative stereotypes associated with certain races. This isn’t a surprising statement though. It is essential that we stop ignoring these stereotypes. To lessen discrimination, we have to address and identify these perceptions. After we recognize these stereotypes are real and are affecting our nation, we must next disclose the facts about the biological myth of race. Many are uneducated about these topics and need to be informed. Following the clarification that race is a socially constructed concept that we inevitably “made up”, we have to present the realities of the flourishing racial discrimination and inequality in the United States. Finally, to promote equality and decrease racial prejudices, we must educate the upcoming generations. We have to shatter the false premises of racial purity, various “subspecies”, and ethnocentrism. We have to inform and engage our youth with the truth about racism, genetic myths of race, and the future for racial concepts in America. Promoting change for racial institutions contemporarily would be favored, but it is critical to educate our younger generations about the reality and consequences associated with race.”

Sources:
Race and Ethnic Stratification Outline – Candace Warner, Associate Professor of Sociology
Video: Race: The Power of Illusion
pbs.org: What is Race? Is Race Real?
Video: Race and Sex: What We Think (But Don’t Say)
Sociology in Modules – Richard T. Schaefer